The Faribault Falcons boys basketball team played its home opener against Albert Lea on Friday, and while the Falcons kept pace early on, the Tigers proved to be the better team in the end.
Albert Lea was able to claim a 72-48 victory thanks to a 14-0 run that started with about 11 minutes remaining in the first half, when Faribault trailed by only one point.
Faribault head coach Eric Hildebrandt pointed to a number of different factors that ultimately doomed his Falcons, but he also gave a lot of credit to the Tigers for coming out and playing hard.
“We got off to a pretty decent start but then we started turning the ball over, which led to them getting some run out opportunities and scoring some easy baskets in transition,” Hildebrandt explained. “And they’re a really athletic team. They have a lot of experience playing together, and so if you give a team like that those opportunities then they’re going to take advantage of them.”
The Falcons were only trailing 15-14 about six and a half minutes into the game, but mistakes and rough patches seemed to doom them from that point on. The Tigers capitalized off of some Faribault turnovers and the Falcons simultaneously went cold on offense.
This was in large part due to the fact that Albert Lea’s defense was creating all kinds of problems for the Falcons, preventing them from driving to the basket and limiting the number of shots they were able to take.
“Defensively our rotations weren’t where they needed to be,” Hildebrandt said. “We were just out of position a lot of times or late on our rotations and those are things that we need to continue to get better at and continue to learn, and we will.”
Hildebrandt felt that the Falcons struggled to reverse the ball well enough, but the few times they did, they were able to open up some lanes in Albert Lea’s defensive scheme. This allowed a few Falcons to reach the rim from time to time, including Aqbal Abdullahi and John Palmer.
After a nearly five-minute scoring drought, Abdullahi and Palmer provided Faribault with a bit of a spark courtesy of a couple clutch shots. The Tigers were still leading, but Faribault managed to close the gap from 15 points to nine with 1:47 still to play before halftime. But they never got any closer, as the Tigers closed the half by scoring four straight points to lead 37-24 entering halftime
The Falcons played well for a few brief stretches but were otherwise out of sync on offense for most of the night.
“We don’t have the best chemistry right now, which is understandable,” Hildebrandt said. “I mean, the group of guys we have hasn’t really ever played together at this level before, so it’s just a matter of getting comfortable playing with each other and learning how to play together. We need to find a rotation that works for us. We know we’ll get better as the year goes on but a lot of this stuff isn’t anything that’ll happen overnight. We have guys playing heavy varsity minutes for the first time and it just takes time.”
Now 0-2 on the year, the Falcons will look to pick up their first win of the season on Tuesday at Red Wing (0-3 overall, 0-1 Big Nine). If the Falcons can limit their number of turnovers, they’ll have more than a fighting chance against the winless Wingers.
“More than anything I think we just need to develop chemistry as a team, and we know that that will come,” Hildebrandt said. “We’ll come together as the season progresses but it’ll take time. But we definitely believe we’ll improve dramatically throughout the year. We just need to keep trying to get a little better every day.”